This little Expression Knob from the company El Garatge (elgaratge.com), based in Barcelona, Spain, lets you adjust a guitar pedal by hand. Last night I tried it out for the first time. It stands in, so to speak, for an expression pedal. And it’s pretty great.
One of the great internet pleasures is to have your music reworked, all the more so to find that someone has taken one of your guitar loop experiments and expanded it to a nearly 30-minute amalgam of coded glitch refraction and improvised soloing. This reworking is by the saintly and enviably talented Van Stiefel.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/vanstiefel. More from Stiefel, a professor of music composition at the Wells School of Music of West Chester University of Pennsylvania, at vanstiefel.com.
This is an experiment that occurred to me to undertake as I walked through a forest three hours north of San Francisco. I was in the redwoods the week before this one, staying in a small cabin to mark the start of summer, or something close to the start of summer. Clearly marked hiking trails behind and all around the cabin made for easy ventures out. The lines of these trails crisscrossed each other at junctures useful to gauging and adjusting one’s itinerary. It was hard not to photograph things, so striking was every direction and every stage of one’s depth of field, from the densely layered beauty of the widely varying greenery, to the markings of horseshoes in the dusty trail, to sudden glimpses of the broad ocean, to the occasional bird, though these were more heard than seen.
I am not frequently in the wilderness. When I am at my desk, I frequently have running on a second screen footage from one or another YouTube account, generally someone’s point-of-view wandering through a city, and sometimes amid a more rural environment. This is adjacent viewing, something that provides a vantage on another place, something that feeds the imagination.
While I stood there in the forest looking ahead at the trail, it occurred to me to do the same. I just had my phone with me, and an old one at that. I set it to video mode and took one step after another forward. I was not about to endeavor to document the hour-long meanderings that my favorite YouTube accounts feature. I just wanted a sliver of the moment, a few minutes. Each step took me further along. The sounds of my feet became more evident to me, because I was aware they were being recorded. The forest ahead brought details into focus out of what, moments before, was just a thicket. Eventually, after two and a half minutes, I stopped mid-trail, did a sweep of the area, and stopped recording. And eventually I returned home, home to the city.
The whistle-like presence of a bird, the rough noise of the microphone responding to a slight breeze, the crackle of a dry twig — each element came into greater focus when I had returned to my desk and was viewing the moving image on the same screen where I normally have YouTube running. I confirmed my own wandering as akin to the ones I so often appreciate vicariously. And so I uploaded it, and jotted down these notes. I don’t foresee myself making many of these — there is only so much time for so many pursuits — but it was useful to share my walk, to experience the layering of memory and moment, to put myself in the footsteps of those who do, to aim my lens in a similar direction, to hear my own footsteps as I have heard theirs.
“Skin conductivity, what’s your function? Hookin’ up modules like VCAs and gates.” These are the AllFlesh buttons, for use with modular synthesizers and other devices that accept the sort of control voltage that makes Eurorack equipment, such as pictured here, function. Usually one would patch a cable into one of those jacks from another device that would send it directions, but with AllFlesh the human body, specifically the finger, completes the circuit and thus any input jack can, in effect, become a button. (Details at landscape.fm/allflesh.)
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• December 28, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• July 28, 2021: This day marked the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.